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Sat, Nov 11, 2006

An Alluring Airplane 'That Puts A Smile On Your Face'

Cessna's LSA Prototype Lands At AOPA

After flying from Wichita, KS in Cessna's (likely? Inevitable?) future entry into the LSA market, Cessna Chairman, President and CEO Jack J. Pelton called his company's all-aluminum Sport, the airplane with ramp appeal "that puts a smile on your face."

It's banner days for Pelton and his company, and "very exciting times for our industry," he told a group of Cessna-devotees and press this week at AOPA Expo 2006.

"We're seeing unprecedented and phenomenal business growth," said Pelton, and does not foresee either a flattening or decline for Cessna in the near future.

To date, Cessna's LSA proof of concept has made over 11 flights, accumulating more than 20 hours in the air.

While this year saw more than a half-dozen milestones for the company -- including the 50th anniversary of the C182 and C172, which "helped to teach the world to fly" -- 2007 promises even more excitement.

That includes celebration of Cessna's 80th anniversary; its alluring, "dare to be sexy in a way no 210 could ever hope to achieve" Next Generation Piston aircraft (concept mock-up shown below), and the potential introduction of a Cessna Light Sport Aircraft.

Not one to just "follow the LSA crowd," Pelton explained that the company took its first look at the LSA market from feedback from its Cessna Pilot Center flight school network on this new and emerging market. Representatives, Pelton said, say an LSA would be a good fit for their flight training needs.

Said Pelton, "We are looking at a very, very attractive product to bring people into aviation at an affordable price point."

How much?

Cessna is looking at the competitions' product offerings, as well as the value proposition its own aircraft would bring to the market. So how much? Somewhere in the vicinity of the $100,000... preferably well south of that to start.

So what does it look like?

The Cessna prototype, with its focus on comfort and "ramp appeal," boasts:

  • A wing span of 30 feet
  • Tricycle gear
  • 100-hp Rotax 912 engine
  • Side-by-side seating for two
  • Wing area of 120-square feet
  • Length of 22.75 feet
  • Gross weight of 1,320 feet
  • 48-inch maximum cabin width, with as much interior space as a Cessna 182 (and a half-foot more than the Cessna 152), and baggage accessibility from the cabin,
  • Grand visibility without strut interference

Cessna's sport aircraft concept incorporates dual control sticks, upward opening doors, toe brakes, and a castering nose wheel.

How do I get me one of those?

Cessna announced its intention to study the feasibility of developing and producing an LSA just this past June; the POC aircraft made its first flight October 13, 2006k just nine months after the first metal was cut.

"The more we evaluate our LSA POC airplane and the market potential for such an aircraft," said Pelton, "the stronger our conviction is that this could be a favorable step for our company's product line."

The company continues to study the sales and distribution alternatives required should the program moves forward, as well as manufacturing options.

"Overall, the business case is looking promising, and the responses we're receive from current customers and potential new customers has been overwhelming favorable." Cessna will announce its decision the first quarter of 2007.

Stay tuned!

FMI: www.cessna.com, www.faa.gov/aircraft/gen_av/light_sport/, www.aopa.org/sportpilot/

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